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Parents' Guide to

Prisoners of the Ghostland

By Jeffrey Anderson, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

Unhinged Cage in offbeat, violent samurai-Western mashup.

Movie NR 2021 103 minutes
Prisoners of the Ghostland Poster Image

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What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

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While it won't be for everyone, this truly bizarre mashup of Westerns and samurai movies, mixed with other bits and pieces, offers a visionary design as well as a thrillingly unhinged Nicolas Cage. Japanese filmmaker Sion Sono, a cult favorite known for Suicide Club (2001) and the equally odd, amazing Love Exposure (2008), makes his English-language debut here (though some Japanese is also spoken). Prisoners of the Ghostland is largely set in what seems like a post-apocalyptic future, or perhaps some alternate reality, where a White man rules a Japanese village that's peopled by both samurai and cowboys, and in an astonishing, ramshackle town, built with random knickknacks. The set design is colorful, and the costumes are incredible.

Plotwise, Prisoners of the Ghostland shamelessly plucks whole ideas from Escape from New York and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, as well as Ennio Morricone-like music cues, but Sono has enough style of his own that these borrowed items somehow seem to fit. Sono's storytelling likewise takes a pretty straightforward sci-fi/action tale and peppers it with oddities, making it feel like something bracing and even surprising. At the center is Cage (who is unnamed but called "Hero" in the credits), zipped up in his pouchy leather suit with a metal arm brace screwed into place and wearing a broken football helmet. He gives another of the unhinged performances that his fans love; at least this time it goes right along with the rest of the strange fun.

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